I recently had a few conversations with people about the Honda Civic Type R. They didn’t fully understand the hype behind the car, because “it’s just a Honda”. After doing some digging, I realized that the car is potentially a lot more than that.
The Honda Civic Type R deserves all the hype it currently has. It was a staple in the JDM golden era during the 90s, and it’s a cult classic today. It’s very powerful, affordable, lightweight, fun to drive, and impossibly fun around the track. It’s almost indistinguishable from the Civic, for all the right reasons.
In this quick guide, I’ll be talking all about the Honda Civic Type R. I’ll go through its history, its relevance in the 90s, how it compares to a stock Civic, and how it compares to other cars in its class. In the end, I’ll go over if the Type R is actually worth all the hype.
All About the Civic
The Civic was among Honda’s first attempts at making a consumer-grade automobile. Once a titan in the motorcycle and sport bike sector, Honda decided to pivot to automobiles in the early 60s. After a decade of trial and error, they came up with the Civic in ’72, and the rest is history.
Today, a Honda Civic is an entry-level vehicle. It’s known for uncanny levels of reliability and affordability. There are plenty of Civics from the early 2000s running today with no issues.
It’s a 4-door sedan with an okay performance, but a lot of space to modify the ride. There are a lot of modded Civics on the road and a huge aftermarket.
Introducing the Type R
The Type R is an upgraded version of cars within Honda’s catalog. They have made Type R options for the NSX, Integra, Accord, and Civic.
People most commonly associate Type R’s with Civics since they have been linked together for the longest time. The NSX, for example, only had a Type R upgrade available on its ‘92-95 run. The Civic had a Type R option from ’97 until today.
A Civic Type R focuses on improving performance, minimizing the weight, upgrading the chassis, and fine-tuning the engine.
It’s worth noting that Honda also sells souped-up Civics under their “Si” line. A Civic Si has some drivetrain improvements and suspension enhancements, but not much else. It’s also only a few thousand dollars more than an entry-level Civic.
The “Type R” goes well beyond that.
The Golden Age: JDM in the 90s
For many, the 90s was the golden decade for JDM. In this decade alone, incredible cars were being introduced left and right. This was when we got the:
- Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 (’98)
- Mazda RX-7 FD (’93)
- Subaru Impreza STI (’94)
- Toyota Supra A80 (’93)
- Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV (’96)
- Honda Civic EK9 (‘97)
I’ll let you wipe away the drool before moving on.
If you grew up in the 90s, this decade of cars likely had a lasting impact on you.
How Honda Handled the 90s
During the 90s, Honda had some fun. During this decade, the design and engineering team at Honda took some unexpectedly big swings, and their catalog took a shift.
This is the time that their flagship HR-V was born — a vehicle unlike anything else on the market at the time. They also put together a funky-looking Orthia, which was a station wagon variant of the beloved Civic.
This decade also saw the release of Honda’s S-MX, one of the weirdest vehicles they ever made. It looked like a minivan that never had its growth spurt, and they didn’t put a rear door on the driver’s side.
However, Honda also kept up with the other heavy hitters of the JDM movement during the golden decade. This was when the EK3 and EK9 were released.
The EK3 and EK9
Both were 6th generation Civic builds: the EK3 was the standard Civic, and the EK9 was their race version, the Type R. To this day, people are still obsessed with the EK9. Not too long ago, an EK9 sold for $73,000 in Japan. Yes, 73 thousand dollars for a car that’s 25 years old.
The EK3 didn’t look like anything on paper. It was underpowered, didn’t have a lot of space, and the interior was bad (even for cars at the time). However, the styling was gorgeous, and the car was inexpensive. More importantly, it was very lightweight.
This gave people ideas, and it was one of the first cars that saw a whole market of people modding a single vehicle. People would swap out the engine, exhaust system, and suspension, and create an incredibly powerful vehicle in a good-looking, lightweight shell.
Growing up, this is one of the earliest examples I remember of a car becoming a staple in the mod community. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stock EK3 in person, but I’ve seen plenty of modded ones.
The EK3 came stock with a single-cam 1.5-liter inline-4 that offered 112 horsepower and 101 lb-ft of torque that could do 0-60 at a snail’s pace of 10.2 seconds.
The EK9 had a 1.6-liter B16B inline-4 that produced 182 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. It would do 0-60 in about 7 seconds. It also had a rev limit of 9,000 rpm which is impossible to imagine (especially for a car in that price range).
If you’re a fan of manga or anime, you might recognize the EK9 from “Initial D”. That whole storyline revolved around a delivery boy who became a drift-racing legend. He drove the EK9 in most scenes of its run during the 90s.
People point to the EK3 and EK9 as the best generation and configuration ever made in Honda’s long history.
Differences Between Civic and Type R
Even though the “Type R” had great history during the 6th generation of Civics, I want to look at the modern version of the Civic and Type R. I think the current option will better highlight the differences between the stock and Type R Civic.
To start, I want to talk about the pricing. Historically, there’s been a huge gap in the prices between a stock Civic and Type R. Today, it’s the same story.
A 2023 Civic Type R has an MSRP of $42,895, while an entry-level Civic starts with an MSRP of $24,650. That’s a difference of $18,245 — almost the price of a Civic!
A Civic can be bought as either a sedan, coupe, or hatchback. That means that you can choose how many doors and how much cargo space you sign up for.
A Type R is only available as a hatchback.
You might be expecting a huge performance gap, given the fact that the Type R costs 18 grand more. Well, you’re absolutely right.
A standard Civic comes with a 2.0-liter i-VTEC inline-4 cylinder engine that cranks out 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque.
The Type R has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. A difference of nearly double. Anything over 300 for a commuter car is a ton of horsepower.
The “Type R” also comes with a makeover in each generation. It generally looks like a Civic but features a lot of changes.
The hood is scooped, the lines are exaggerated, the front offers unique badging, you get a spoiler and extra trim around the skirt, the wheel wells are traced with jutting bodywork, you get three massive exhaust tips, and you’ll notice aggressive styling on the fenders.
If you squint, it looks like a Civic, but the differences are massive.
As a result, the Type R simply looks amazing. It has one of the best side profiles on the car market, in my opinion.
I want to start by saying that the interior of a Civic is my favorite at its price point. It has a great blend of comfort, technology, and attention to detail.
In the interior, the Type R offers everything that the highest-trim Civic has to offer and more. It has red seating, and red accents everywhere you look. The infotainment system can turn into a series of digital gauges, and the dashboard has a rev counter that blinks when it’s time to shift.
The Type R also swaps out the seats for performance-grade bucket seats to keep you in place while you drive around.
Interior Comfort and Space
The Civic also comes with a lot of space and comfort inside. You’ll notice a lot of road noise from the cabin, but you can fix this problem by just blasting the radio (like I do).
The seats are comfortable, and even the back seats are fine for carpooling with your friends.
With the “Type R,” it’s not the same story. I actually have a big problem with the comfort of the Type R.
I don’t look like Shaq, but I’m a bigger guy, and I physically couldn’t fit in the Type R when I went to test drive it last year. I could barely squeeze through the driver’s door, then the bucket seat was too tight for me, and there wasn’t enough legroom to even swing my legs into the car. This was the first and only time I’ve experienced this, and I’ve driven dozens of cars in my life.
If I could fit, I guarantee I would have a Type R in my driveway.
The Civic comes with an automatic CVT. Don’t get me started on CVTs, but I understand why Honda decided to go in that direction.
Higher levels of the Civic come with an optional six-speed manual transmission, so you can decide which type of transmission you’d like.
The Civic Type R comes with a six-speed manual as the only transmission option. That means that you need to learn how to drive a manual if you want to enjoy this car.
The technology across the board is really impressive. The Civic has some of the best technology at its price point, as I mentioned earlier. The Civic has sensors, gadgets, and phone capabilities that other cars at the same price don’t come close to.
The “Type R” has all of the same tech, plus more. You’ll get more gauges, more sensors, and more warning lights.
The Civic comes with two driving options: standard or ECON. The ECON mode will limit your throttle response in an effort to maximize your miles per gallon.
A standard Type R comes with three modes. It starts on Comfort, then can elevate to Sport, then +R. Every step up offers tighter controls, faster responses, and a touchier throttle.
In +R mode, a slight tap of the gas results in your engine roaring and doing a burnout.
This is an important thing to mention because Comfort mode scales everything back. It cages the beast, so to say, so you’re left with a car that feels more like a Civic. If you want to impress your lady or annoy your neighbors, then you simply throw it in +R mode and let the car start screaming. It’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde situation.
Both cars offer the same great reliability that Honda is known for. Honda’s engineers refuse to make anything unless it lasts 250,000 miles without any issues. The Civic and Type R are both highly reliable, just don’t forget to change your oil, rotate your tires, and replace your brakes.
The “Type R” goes through a suspension overhaul during the assembly process. Even though the car is an FWD vehicle, Honda’s engineers put a lot of technology in the drivetrain and suspension to make it perform better than its AWD counterparts.
It has an electronic dynamic suspension and a controlled drivetrain. As a result, the “Type R” almost refuses to understeer.
You’re left with a car that has a ton of balance and precision through turns at high speeds.
Type R Compared to Other Cars
So far, this hasn’t been a fair comparison. Comparing the Type R to the Civic is like comparing an NFL starter to the third-string junior varsity kicker.
A more appropriate comparison would be looking at the Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS, VW Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI.
In this match-up, the result is the same. The “Type R” is the most reliable, and affordable, and offers the fastest 0-100 time.
The dynamic suspension and drivetrain are perfectly crafted, and it blows the other three cars out of the water.
Every time I hear someone talk about a Type R comparison, they put the Type R at the top. It’s the front-runner in its category.
Is the Civic Type R Worth the Hype?
After all of this, you might be wondering if the Civic Type R is really worth the hype. It’s a rare car to see on the street, but there’s a big market built around it, and a lot of people are obsessed with the car.
If you want my opinion, I think it’s absolutely worth it. It’s the best example of untamed sportiness at such a low sticker price.
The Type R comes with a long history and impressive pedigree, and it’s a head-turner.
It’s also weird driving a car that has so much power, yet it’s highly reliable and long-lasting. You always expect manufacturers to choose one or the other, but Honda chose both.
I think the Type R is worth the hype, and it deserves even more hype.
The Civic Type R is not just a Civic on steroids. It’s a strong, affordable, stylish, historic JDM classic that has a cult following. The Type R is absolutely worth the hype, and I would strongly consider test-driving one if you can.